(director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriter: story & screenplay by John C. Higgins; cinematographers: Paul Vogel/Clyde DeVinna; editor: Ralph E. Goldstein; music: Edward Ward/David Snell; cast: Rita Johnson (Kitty Carson), Tom Neal (Joe Z. Cameron), Bernard Nedell (“Reno,” Clyde Madigan), Eddie Gargan (“Bugs,”George Jacklin), John Gallauder  (“Groper,” Albert Crane), George Tobias (“Sloppy Joe”), Frank M. Thomas (Supt. at Chillicothe), Addison Richards (Atlanta Warden), Anne Shoemaker (Dr. Ellen Hollis), Raymond Bailey (Huey), Paul Fix (Vonnie), Marguerita Padula (Anna),  Fay Helm (Mamie (Jacklin), Elliott Sullivan (Sheriff), Wally Maher (Jackson), Charles Lane (Psychiatrist), Homer S. Cummings (Self, Former U.S. Attorney General), James V. Bennett (Self,  Director of Federal Bureau of Prisons); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Jack Chertock: MGM; 1939-B/W)

“Effectively uses documentary techniques to tell a feel-good fictional story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The great director Jacques Tourneur (“Wichita”/”Out of the Past”) was born in Paris but in 1913 he came to America as a child of 7. In this low-budget B-film crime drama, Tourneur’s first American film, he effectively uses documentary techniques to tell a feel-good fictional story. The point of the film is that all the prisoners come out of prison and the penal system must try and rehabilitate them so they will go straight when released. This theme is said in the film’s beginning and end by Homer S. Cummings, the former U.S. Attorney General and by James V. Bennett, the Director of Federal Bureau of Prisons.

It follows a gang of bank robbers led by the hardened career criminal leader Reno (Bernard Nedell). Members of the gang are the soft in the head Bugs (Eddie Gargan), the delusional wacko gunman Groper (John Gallauder) and the young lady who cases the banks, Kitty (Rita Johnson).

In Birmingham, Alabama, Kitty buys a meal at a diner for a penniless and embittered hobo, Joe Z. Cameron (Tom Neal), and then recruits him as a getaway driver for her gang of bank robbers. Things go fine until in one robbery in Alabama, the police nab them in a shoot-out, but Reno hides the $33, 000 stolen from the bank before arrested.

Kitty also gets arrested when turned in by the doctor who treats her gunshot wound got during the shootout. By now Joe and Kitty are sweet on each other, and write to each other making plans to be together after their short sentences in prison.

Reno, who got 20 years, tries escaping and is sent to Alcatraz. He thinks Joe, now paroled as a welder in Cleveland, stole the stolen money and sends gunman Vonnie (Paul Fix) after him. Kitty meanwhile works in a beauty salon in Cincinnati thanks to learning the trade in prison.

The film takes us into real prisons, but the story strains to fit in its positive message of prisoners being reformed by a benevolent prison system–something not seen in modern-times (and if tried, I believe would have little chance of working or being funded).

REVIEWED ON 2/13/2022  GRADE: B-